Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The ultimate carbo-loading experience

You might've noticed that my posts for the past week and a half didn't actually mention any runs I'd gone on.

That's because I haven't run in more than two weeks, during which time I was busy prepping for, going on and recovering from a week-plus visit to Italy with my sister!

At the Forum — one of my favorite spots — in Rome. We'd already done the Colosseum, which you can see in the background.
Our trip was every bit as fantastic as one would expect, full of beautiful architecture, delicious food and drink, sunshine (take that, polar vortex!), amazingly ancient history all around us ... and runners.

I don't know why the sight of runners surprised me. I'd seen running tours for Venice advertised, and I've read about marathons in Rome.

Maybe it was the contrast with la dolce vita that caught me off guard — and before anyone suggests that Italians might need to burn off all that gelato and pasta, let me be the millionth person to point out that they do a lot more travel by foot and by bike than most Americans do.

Authentic margherita pizza in Naples. This restaurant — L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele — was the one featured in "Eat, Pray, Love" and was every bit as delicious as depicted.
Or maybe it was just their odd gear that made me do double-takes. I swear at least half of them were running in biking shorts, and more than a few were in what appeared to be everyday shirts.

They're a very well-dressed nation, no doubt, but why ruin those stylish tops with sweat? At least the odd outfits I saw in West Des Moines were athletic-gear-based.

Unlike when I went to London, I didn't feel the slightest twinge of envy watching Italian runners, though.

I was getting enough exercise not just walking, but also climbing monuments and ruins on sometimes-uneven pavement, and I think my mind needed a break from my 5K dud and from training during the polar vortex.

But I was happy to see runners. I'm so used to feeling like my leisure activity is scorned (even I call it a stupid hobby) that if a nation known for appreciating the finer things is engaging in it frequently, that's a huge selling point for our community.

* * *

Did you miss posts because I wasn't plugging them on Twitter and Facebook? Here's what went up in my absence.

April 5: Reflections on 5K training plans

April 7: Upcoming race: Grand Blue Mile

April 9: Running crafts are complete

April 11: Upcoming race: Woofin' It 5K

April 13: Second installment of 2014's quarterly goals

Monday, April 14, 2014

Second installment of 2014's quarterly goals

I had mixed success with my first-quarter goals, but maybe spring will bring a more nurturing environment for what I hope to accomplish over the next three months.

1. Regain mental strength. I know I can think positive rather than negative. I just need to dust off the tools I've used before and maybe retain some of the endless articles on the powers of positive thinking that I read.

2. Break 2:00:00 in a half marathon and 7:30 in a mile. I wrote about these earlier this year, and they remain valid. The testing grounds will be the Grand Blue Mile, or any training for it, and Dam to Dam.

3. Take more short trips on foot or bike. I live so close to bike lanes that once the snow is gone, I have no excuse for not riding to the grocery store/pharmacy/library for small trips. Spring, rather than summer, would also be a good time to knock out my commute-by-bike-once-this-year goal.

I mean, if I was willing to run a mile holding two paperback books — more challenging than it sounds — I should be able to throw on a backpack and helmet for that same distance.

Plus, I've been promised a homemade version of these panniers, so my grocery-hauling ability should improve dramatically this season.

Seen — and envied — during RAGBRAI 2013.
4. Do 10 stair repeats in 10 minutes. That's three flights, up and down, per minute. I kept this pace for five minutes earlier this spring, so depending on how warm the hallways in my building get, this might or might not be doable.

5. Keep up the strength yoga. I was OK at keeping up with this during 5K training — not great and definitely not enthusiastic, but more consistent as I felt more confident in the poses. And given the time demands of half-marathon training, I'm happy to take a two-in-one workout where I can find it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Upcoming race: Woofin' It 5K

I received an email recently with the news I'd been eagerly awaiting all spring: Registration was open for the Woofin' It 5K.

Last year's event was one of my all-time favorite race experiences and definitely my favorite fun run.

I mean, if you're an animal lover, how can you not enjoy watching dogs of all shapes and sizes galloping about, sniffing things, sporting costumes and never running the tangents?

I hope I'm able to borrow a shelter dog again, even though my companion last year gave me a sore shoulder. (No, I won't bring my cats just in case I can't run with a dog. Someone has already asked.)

I also hope that I'm able to round up a lot of registrants to help the awesome shelter that saved my Dusty cat, given the noncompetitive and super-cute nature of this event — some friends run, some friends used to run and some friends own dogs, so there's a wide appeal.

Does this guy look like he's ready to run? Nope, but he does look awfully dapper in that harness.
If anyone who's reading this hasn't already been gently nagged to register, it's at 9 a.m. May 10 at Campbell Park in Clive.

Last year, the location was perfect because I lived only a mile away; this year, it'll be nice to hit up a trail (the Clive Greenbelt) I haven't run on since probably November, if not earlier, and admire all the nice houses around there again.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Running crafts are complete

I have officially finished the running-schwag crafts that I declared I would do months ago!

The T-shirt pillows are now complete. Behold the fruits of my labor:

When I googled "T-shirt pillow" at my crafting companion's apartment to find the written instructions I meant to use, I discovered video results for no-sew projects.

Out went plan A, and in came plan B with much improvisation and little measuring. (I wasn't going to watch a 10-minute video late in the "crafternoon.")

Somehow both turned into socially acceptable pillows, despite the slipperiness of tech T-shirts and my lack of fancy slicing equipment during the Arny Johnson project's creation.

Dusty approves of my work.
What to do next? Well, I'm adding quite a few bibs to my holder, and maybe those T-shirts will end up in a second quilt.

Or maybe I could just hit the pavement instead.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Upcoming race: Grand Blue Mile

Two-plus years ago, as I planned out my running year, I set my sights on something totally different: a mile-long race.

But the one I had in mind — the State Street Mile — is in Rockford, Ill., and within months of my announced intention to try it, I was out of Rockford and with other plans for my PTO that summer.

This year is the year, though. All the stars have aligned for me to try the Grand Blue Mile.

Instead of doing a half marathon that weekend, I'm doing one more than a month later, and the April 22 race day comes a few weeks after the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick 5K. From speed training to speedier training — the transition seemed pretty natural.

Plus, because I already work downtown on Tuesdays, travel and parking will be a cinch. All I have to do is show up to work with a change of clothes.

Warming up could be a cinch, too: Just jog the approximately half-mile from work down to Western Gateway Park. Some casual Googling indicated to me that I'll need at least that much to prepare for such a short race.

I unfortunately didn't think far enough ahead to work more mile training into my 5K regimen, so I don't have much material for goals yet.

It is safe to say, however, that I registered for the competitive division — recommended for sub-8:00-milers — and not the recreational — all abilities, including walkers. I've done that in 5Ks, sometimes without even warming up, training or trying (boy, Sadye, you sure have long arms ... ).

And it's also safe to say that I'll get a PR ... because it only counts on race day, according to Runner's World's Ask Miles.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Reflections on 5K training plans

As I made my racing plans for the first half of the year, I realized that the timing of races and vacations meant I'd be able to — and probably should — use a 5K-specific training plan.

It's been only recently that I aimed for speed at 5Ks, and in my running career almost every 5K has fallen during half-marathon training anyway.

So this spring, I was intrigued, excited and hopeful to implement a speed-specific plan.

Looking back, though, I have to say that I don't think I'll do that again. Or at the very least, I'll try a different routine.

Part of the fault lies with me, I'll admit that. I lost a week because of illness, and I made a few changes to the program that I thought would improve it.

But I do know, however, that I'm not alone. When I wrote earlier about adjusting my expectations for the 5K, I received a supportive tweet from Karla:
I always run my best times deep into training for longer distances. But to be fair, I've never properly trained for a 5K.
It made me wonder: Was it maybe not a coincidence that I shattered my 5K personal record at an event two-thirds of the way through half-marathon training that was going great?

The alterations I made to the training plan were an attempt to make it more speed-specific, but maybe I erred in dropping off some of the longer, easier runs (longer being relative, of course) — the half-marathon plan that I like does incorporate weekly speedwork, in addition to mid-distance and long runs.

Then again, running is definitely a head game, and I think that's especially true right now for me, considering the years of consistent running and biking under my belt and my age.

I could always try a 5K plan again. I might. But the next competitive 5K I have my eye on is during half-marathon training, so it won't be soon.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

How I did on my first-quarter goals

When I set my goals for the first three months of the year, I thought I had most of them in the bag, except for one, which I secretly expected myself to wimp out on.

But the first quarter was full of surprises. Here's how I did.

What I said: Continue working on being mentally strong.

How I did: Terrible. (Which continues the negative self-talk I kept engaging in every time I caved during a run.)

It seemed like I successfully resisted the temptation to walk during last fall's speedwork far more often than I did this spring. All the stopping meant a lot of self-doubt, criticism and declarations that I should just quit running.

Better luck next quarter, I guess.

What I said: Break 24:00 in a 5K.

How I did: I was only about 2.5 minutes away from that ...

No, as Cory said, you can't PR at every race, and despite the runner's high I got from that 24:09 finish, I knew that would mean pushing even harder to do any better.

I don't think this was an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I wasn't surprised that I came up short. It's been a participation-award season so far, not an accomplishment-filled one.

What I said: Focus on running slow runs slower and fast runs faster.

How I did: The weather helped me out here — it's hard to go too fast when your thighs are frozen during the entire run.

What I said: Incorporate stair workouts.

How I did: The good news is, I dutifully did this once a week during 5K training. The bad news is, it didn't appear to put an end to my breathless arrival at work after walking three flights.

Seriously, though, while it was far more physically challenging than the yoga and core routines I picked out for myself, I found it much easier to force myself to get this workout in. The simplicity of it worked incredibly well for me.

The one goal I had faith I'd fail at was the most successful one. Huh.